Proposed cut in aviation tax won't get off the ground

Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, today (9 Feb) used First Minister's Questions to warn Nicola Sturgeon that the Government's argument for the proposed cut in aviation tax won't get off the ground.

Five years ago Mr Harvie challenged then-First Minister Alex Salmond over the proposal at FMQs, and after consistently raising the issue with ministers, it was admitted that the policy would increase climate change emissions.

At this week and last week's meetings of the Finance Committee, Mr Harvie challenged witnesses from airlines, airports and business groups to explain why the tax should be cut but none was able to provide evidence of what the impact would be.

The Scottish Government proposes to cut the tax in 2018-19.

Patrick said:

“The public purse will lose substantial funds if this tax cut goes ahead - a tax cut that will disproportionately benefit wealthy frequent fliers and the highly-profitable aviation sector, while doing nothing for the public transport so many people rely on every day. It will also worsen our transport emissions and damage Scotland's reputation for taking climate change seriously.

“But what’s most surprising is that the SNP’s backers on this issue can’t even produce a shred of evidence about the impact on jobs, the economy, the environment, or even flight numbers and ticket prices. The Scottish Government should be leading the way on growing lasting jobs in new low-carbon industries, but instead they’re redesigning the aviation tax system based on nothing more than a wing and a prayer.

"Today's response from the First Minister is deeply worrying. She appears determined to stick rigidly to a policy which lacks any credible evidence and will inevitably increase carbon emissions. To proceed with this policy, while the Scottish Government still has no idea what it would consider acceptable pollution limits from aviation, would be absurd.

"Green MSPs have led the way in challenging this confused and damaging policy, and given the flimsy evidence supporting it the whole idea should just be grounded."

Green MSPs have led the social, economic and environmental case against slashing Air Passenger Duty, first raising it at FMQs in 2012